Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Friday, March 27, 2009

Focus? Energy? Fluidity? Oh yeah...

Today was an excellent reminder of all those concepts, usually all together, at once. It's amazing how things like that can totally change a session, and believe me, they can.

You know how Linda says "You're not playing for today, you're playing for tomorrow?" She means it. Usually when you leave off great in a previous session, the next session will be even better, and more progressive. Conversely, if you leave off on a bad note, generally the next session will be poor, too. Keep that in mind as we go along here.

I headed out to the farm today with the intent to play with Crest. He and I had had a slightly scary session last week, and I, truth be told, have been making excuses to not play with him since, simply because it was a disturbing flashback to how Crest used to be. I guess you could say I was visiting some sort of denial phase.

Last week's session left off with Crest frothing, me panting, and both of us thoroughly pissed off and scared of each-other. Though I won't go into detail, needless to say, it didn't go well. But one of the things that triggered the session was Crest's "sticky" sideways game. Crest is a pretty bio-mechanically screwed up horse, and so going sideways, particularly to the left, can be very difficult for him. This is all thanks to an accident we had a couple years ago. Anyway, as a result, he's crooked all down his right side, but especially through his ribcage. We've played with it for over a year, and we've corrected a lot of it, but it still causes him some discomfort from time to time. Unfortunately, being as extroverted as he is, Crest expresses his discomfort in a large, animated way that often causes me to lose my confidence and brace, which in turn causes him to get even more animated, and it usually ends up with me getting off and feeling a little dejected.

ANYWAY. What does ALL THIS have to do with today? I decided, based upon last session, that playing with the sideways box pattern might be a smart thing to do. For those who aren't familiar, the sideways box is comprised of 4 markers (barrels, cones,etc) formed in a box shape about 10-20 feet apart. The goal is to side pass from one to the next in a Z pattern.

So, I got Crest out, and warmed him up playing with patterns and sideways on the ground. It was going really really well, he was peppy, but not crazed, focused, but not clingy, it was perfect. So hopped on, and went first to show him the box I had created. I wasn't going to ask for him to go sideways, I just wanted him to see it. He saw it, and immediately perked up in a way I wasn't so sure I liked. So I decided to play with some figure 8 before I even TRIED to get sideways. This is a pattern he's plenty familiar with, we play with it almost every time we ride because it helps calm him when he's on adrenaline. So I send him in, he goes around the first barrel like a gentleman, and comes to the second, goes 1/2 way around it, and then, without warning, SHOOTS sideways. It wasn't a spook. Crest is a bolter in those situations. No, this was totally defiant. He does it when he doesn't get his way, though it's been getting less and less common. I sort of sighed and asked him forward, and completed the 8, and went for another one. We came 1/2 way around the second barrel, and BAM, same thing. He did this twice more. Okay, so now I'm starting to get angry. I'm not proud of it, but there you have it.

It always seems like I have to blow up with Crest before we succeed. This is not something I'm proud of, and honestly, after this session, I have some keys to fixing situations like that before they become explosive. But anyway, what happened next was embarrassing. I'll ask you to try to see the humor in this image, because honestly, that's what gets me by after acting like a complete ass.

I got off (I was losing my confidence) and proceeded to send Crest in a pretty aggressive falling leaf pattern, while growling orders at him, that he clearly doesn't understand. Now as I'm doing this, I'm realizing just how ridiculous I must look at sound. Crest is 3 steps away from leaving the planet with this "What the HELL did I do?!" look on his face, and I'm growling like a maniac, while doing something completely unproductive. And then I had a thought. A thought that stopped me dead in my tracks. Why not try the figure 8 on the ground, Fran? WHAT A NOVEL IDEA!

So that's what we did. And Crest, probably relieved to not have psycho-Fran growling at him, was absolutely tuned in and fantastic on the patterns. He never broke gait on the figure 8, and several times popped a flying change at the canter. I felt really good about that, so after two sets of 7 (I did one regular, and then one where he had to spin to get the correct direction) I hopped back up, and tried again...only to get the same result as when I had tried riding it before. Puzzled, I asked Crest to stop, because I really had to think. I had no idea what was causing this gap between ground and riding...and then, like a ton of bricks, it hit me.

It's me. Of COURSE. He's shooting sideways, and I'm tensing up. I've patterned myself to tense up at that second barrel. But WHY? I asked him again to figure 8, while I examined my behavior. I was indeed tensing up, but also, my focus was NOWHERE, and my body wasn't following either. I was asking him to go around a barrel, sure, but was I going around the barrel? Nope.

For the next 15 minutes, I played with figure 8's with the reins on Crest's neck. HE followed the pattern at a trot, and I didn't even have to pick up my reins. He's an EXTREMELY sensitive horse, and so as long as the components for lightness are there, he'll take it.

So...Focus? Energy? Fluidity? Oh yeah...those...they're handy! Today I'll head out and play again :)

Savvy on,


1 comment:

Tina said...

It's nice to hear that other people have "emotional fitness" and "focus" issues, too. Thanks for being honest and making me feel better about my imperfections!